This Brand Can

Does anyone out there still doubt that women’s sport offers one of the most exciting opportunities in sponsorship?

In a week where Synergy is hosting #ThisGirlDoes, a brilliant panel exploring why no brand should be without a strategy for women and women in sport, it makes sense to have a quick look at how rightsholders and brands can work together to not only fuel this fire, but benefit from it. And it’s actually pretty simple:

Where possible, any rightsholder with both men’s and women’s propositions should commercialise them separately. And where they are not currently commercialised separately, brands should ask for them to be.

The fact is that most big properties that have both men’s and women’s propositions still tend to bundle them together. Sponsors of the FIFA World Cup (let’s be honest, no-one sponsors FIFA, they sponsor the World Cup), get the Women’s World Cup as part of the deal. The exact same thing applies to the UEFA European Championships, the Champions League, the RBS 6 Nations and the ICC Cricket World Cup. Similarly, if you sponsor England Rugby, Arsenal, Manchester City, PSG or any other major team, you typically also get the women’s team thrown into the deal. While this may simplify things for both rightsholder and sponsor, it is not necessarily the best solution for either side.

One competition where this is not the case is the FA Cup, with the Emirates FA Cup and SSE Women’s FA Cup running side by side. Synergy have been working closely with both SSE and the FA from the beginning to create a bespoke programme for Women’s/Girl’s football, so we have seen the power of this unbundled approach first hand.

By bundling the men’s and women’s propositions together, rightsholders are likely to be leaving value on the table. Basically, this sponsorship version of Buy-One-Get-One-Free doesn’t attribute the appropriate amount of value to the Women’s proposition. How much value do the FIFA World Cup sponsors attribute to their Women’s World Cup rights? Would Emirates expect to pay any less for their overall sponsorship of Arsenal if the Women’s team had a different brand on their shirts?

This isn’t to say that those sponsors don’t value the women’s property at all – of course they do. It’s just that they don’t value it as much as a brand that wants to focus on the women’s property in its own right. And a brand that values it more highly will also be willing to pay more for it.

The brands that value the women’s propositions more highly in their own right are also the brands that are going to create more powerful activation campaigns. Although a slightly different form of unbundling, what Sainsbury’s and Channel 4 did with the Paralympics was one of the most powerful lessons from London 2012. As “Paralympic-only” sponsors they could identify what made the Paralympics so uniquely powerful and could focus their activation budget on bringing it to life. They were able to create brilliant Paralympic campaigns – not just Olympic campaigns that ran during the Paralympics.

There is no doubt that this same principle applies to brands that want to tell empowering women’s stories. As an industry, we need to make sure that they have access to great properties that will allow them to do so. Campaigns like This Girl Can, Always #LikeAGirl, Dove Real Beauty Sketches, Under Armour #IWillWhatIWant and Nike #BetterForIt show what’s possible when a brand gets it right. And it’s a strategy worth pursuing as research by Google suggests that women ages 18-34 are twice as likely to think highly of a brand that creates an empowering ad about women and nearly 80% are more likely to engage with it.

So brands with a strategy for women and women in sport can create better, more relevant and more targeted activation campaigns, while rightsholders can extract more value. Imagine the Possibilities.

Sports Marketing Can Learn From Storytellers

The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. These are some of the best-selling books in history and subsequently some of the highest grossing films of all time. So what do they all have in common? And how can sports marketing storytellers learn from them?

All three stories have hit a storytelling sweet spot, tapping into an innate human desire to hear stories of heroic quests and adventures. Even if you’re not Harry Potter’s biggest fan, the heroic quest that J.K. Rowling had chosen – for Harry Potter to defeat the evil wizard Lord Voldermort across seven novels – follows one of the most powerful forms a story can take; the battle of good versus evil.

The ability to tell a compelling story is central to PR and marketing, and this is especially true in sports marketing. Storytellers who master the heroic quest concept and successfully use it to tell their brand’s story can engage their audience, change perceptions and improve understanding in a way their contemporaries cannot.

So what exactly is the Heroic Quest and what does it consist of?

The structure of the Heroic Quest, a phrase coined by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez in their 2016 book titled ‘Illuminate’, is split into three chronological acts: The Beginning (Dream, Leap), The Middle (Fight, Climb) and The End (Arrive and Re-Dream).

Simply put, the hero in the quest must embark on a testing and long journey, overcoming set-backs and obstacles that push them to their limits, before they finish triumphant (or in some cases, fall tragically short).

We see these stories all the time in sport; Andre Agassi’s long road to recovery from injury (and a fall in the world rankings to 141) to win the US Open in 1999, Lionel Messi’s rise to become the best player the world has ever seen despite a growth hormone deficiency as a child, and Michael Phelps who has battled back from rehab following alcohol abuse and is set to compete for the USA in the 2016 Rio Olympics. It’s hard to forget Leicester City’s recent climb to the top of the Barclays Premier League and with a Hollywood film depicting the feat reportedly in the pipeline, this may well be the purest form of the heroic quest within sport we have ever seen.

‘Illuminate’ by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez (2016)

Why does storytelling work so well in PR and marketing?Without getting bogged down too much in the science (take a look at the image below for more detail if dopamine and cortex activity float your boat) our brains are far more engaged with information presented in a storytelling form rather than cold hard facts. Science has proven we humans crave stories. We spend about one third of our lives daydreaming (this actually equates to about half of our waking hours) and another third dreaming of stories in our sleep.But stories do not just come in the form of daydreams distracting us from the day job. Stories can help us connect (the more personal to the viewer the better) with and understand ideas being presented to us. They can conjure a range emotions to help change perceptions of and behaviour towards individuals and brands.

People have a tendency to enter the worlds of the stories they are gripped by and the boundaries between what is real and not becomes increasingly blurred. A great story has the ability to transport you to another world completely. Ever wondered why films can be such tear-jerkers or why you grab the edge of your seat during horror movies? Our brains find it difficult to make the distinction between real life and a figment of someone’s imagination.

But in a world where your audience is dominated by Millenials – a demographic who are increasingly time-poor and often distracted – how can you ensure that your story successfully stands out from the crowd?

1) Make it personal

The more personal and emotive the story, the easier your audience will find it to connect and identify with the characters involved. Keep your hero individual (rather than a group or team) and your viewer is more likely to relate and feel a part of their journey. A good example of this is Under Armour’s emotive ‘Rule Yourself’ video featuring USA swimmer Michael Phelps:

2) Make it authentic

Authenticity is key. Your story should be born from a genuine place otherwise you run the risk of people switching off and, rather than valuing it, thinking of it as a disturbance. Supermodel Gisele Bündchen in Under Armour’s ‘I Will What I Want’ video that launched in 2014 is an example of authentic storytelling at its best.

3) Make it suitable for the digital age

The traditional art of storytelling is being challenged. Grab your audience’s attention in the first 15 seconds of the story and you’ve got a good chance of keeping it. The powerful Rugby World Cup 2015 advert ‘Force of Black’ by New Zealand’s kit supplier adidas quickly captured their audience’s attention to help them tell the story of the blade jersey and the force of 15 All Blacks coming together as one.

Under Armour’s ‘I Will What I Want’ and ‘Rule Yourself’ campaigns also use a shortened form of the heroic quest to great effect:

While the heroic quests found in The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are easy enough to recognise, it takes a skilled storyteller to present the less straightforward events of day-to-day life in engaging ways, particularly as brands look for new ways to start a conversation with their audience as new technology blossoms.

There are so many heroic sporting stories out there for brands to tell. Working out how to tell that story in a way that is relevant to the brand, engaging for their audience and is powerful enough to change their perceptions is the quest that brands must embark on.

Watch this Space: Jersey Sponsorship in the US

In this year’s NBA All Stars game in Toronto, there was one towering difference on the court. It had nothing to do with what the players were doing with the ball, but everything to do with what they were wearing. On their jerseys, for the first time, there was a brand logo – Kia.
Let’s put this in proportion: at 3.25 inches by 1.6 inches it’s barely noticeable in comparison with the logos on MLS or European sports jerseys, but it’s the barrier it crosses that’s significant. There can be no doubt that this is the NBA putting feelers out for what Commissioner Adam Silver talked about back in 2014 when he said: “We know what the value is to advertisers…to be able to show fans in-game branding.”

The math is simple – the average MLS jersey goes for around $3–3.5m dollars a year, but for commercial departments from the leading “big four league” teams in the US, I would imagine that there have been some envious glances across the pond to Manchester United’s deal with American car company Chevrolet at $75m a year.

Whilst the NBA have been joined by the NHL (whose Commissioner described jersey sponsorship as “coming and happening”), the MLB and NFL have been certainly more lukewarm. There are obvious logistical issues around it.

First, with a league’s collective bargaining agreements there needs to be consensus and balance as to whether it’s sold centrally or as per the European sports model, team by team. And secondly, the objection of broadcasters concerned about potential conflict and lost revenue.

The real question here is not whether this will indeed happen in the USA (I believe it’s inevitable over the next few years in NBA and NHL, at the very least), but rather whether it will impact negatively for consumers. And moreover, will brands here in America learn the lessons from the decades of good, bad and ugly jersey sponsorships in the past to influence the future?

So do consumers care…and, in particular, the Millennial consumer?

At Synergy, we’ve long been frustrated by the lack of real understanding and insight on the way Millennials engage with and view sports – both now and in the future. There are countless myths that have been built across the demographic, some of which are wrong and many of which can skew the way brands and rightsholders build campaigns. At the end of 2015, we undertook a bespoke and comprehensive piece of research with our sister agency, The Intelligence Group, around both Millennial and Generation X attitudes towards sports, sponsors and the future of sports engagement, with findings featured throughout Now, New & Next 2016.

The survey (3,145 consumers in America with 66% 18–34-year-olds and 34% 35–54-year-olds) specifically examined the potential impact of jersey sponsorship among the audience.

In short – they don’t see it as an issue. The rise of European soccer, MLS and WNBA has made jersey logos a more acceptable part of the viewing experience for the Millennial sports fan. The research highlights that 27% of Millennials think jersey sponsorship is “very appropriate” (higher than Gen Xers), whilst, tellingly, more Gen Xers than Millennials think it’s better for brands to be in the ad break or break bumpers.

History also shows that team success soon overcomes fans’ commercial objections. FC Barcelona – whose motto is famously “More than a Club” – held out for decades against commercial shirt sponsorship by featuring Unicef on the front of their jersey (at no charge), before replacing the global charity with sponsorship from the Qatar Foundation for a then record $40m a year.

Whilst there was a clear media backlash, it didn’t last long when a team with significantly increased resources went on to lift the UEFA Champions League. So if it helps your team produce a great spectacle, most fans soon overlook the logo.

Critically, fans soon discover that a brand appearing on their shirt will not affect their “fanship.” Indeed, more than being just a benign presence, fans may even come to see a jersey sponsor as a positive force for good, with the brand actively enhancing this very fanship. Another reason why this front-and-center asset can be so powerful.

As a jersey sponsor you have a responsibility, since your logo becomes part of the history of the team. Famous jerseys down the ages of European sports are identifiable due to the brand logo on the front of them – the brand locked forever, in the very midst of that trophy-lifting moment. The same applied off the pitch, where through the replica shirt market, fans of all ages wear your brand on a daily basis.

You cannot be edited out – be that in the live moment, or the subsequent media coverage: your brand is indelibly stencilled into that moment of history (for good or bad).

This responsibility means that you must understand and tap into the players, the fans, the culture and the tone of the team.

Lessons Learned for the Future

So what lessons can brands considering jersey sponsorship here in the US learn to ensure this doesn’t become just a glorified media buy?

Jersey sponsorship has always been the closest you can get to being in the action as a brand. New tech can only help this to literally get up close and personal with your team and your favourite players. At the 2016 CES Sports Forum, virtual reality was talked about by one team owner as “what TV was to radio” – imagine the creative capacity for VR technology being able to take fans into the action courtesy of the jersey sponsor.

Being at the heart of the action means being at the heart of the live moment, and research shows that Millennials notice brands in-game more than anywhere else. As a jersey sponsor you need to ensure you contractually own the live moment by having access to your team’s official social media feeds in order to feed the consumers’ desire for in-play, shareable content that can enhance their fanship.

Get the players onside and fast, as they’re the living embodiment and running billboard for your brand. This is what can make the activation of a shirt sponsorship both easy (as you don’t need to shoehorn your brand into the situation) but also dangerous (you may not want your brand involved in certain off-court exchanges).

Again, with players controlling their own IP and the restrictive contracts they can have with teams in the US on its usage, brands need to be savvy enough to work in harmony with the players. Additional agreements with them are a must, especially in relation to their social feeds. Take, for example, the starting line-up for the Cleveland Cavaliers, which has a combined Twitter and Facebook following of 58m, versus the team’s official feeds of just over 5m.

LeBron’s Twitter following alone is nearly as big as that of all the other teams in the league combined.

Don’t be afraid to innovate or have fun with it – when Intel signed a jersey deal with FC Barcelona they literally turned the traditional model inside out by putting their Intel branding on the inside of the jersey. Some brands have handed over the space to a charity that they back for key matches – something that usually attracts positive sentiment.

The geographic activation restrictions of most US league deals ensure that the jersey sponsor would need to keep home fences mended, but the real potential for the leading teams would be the global potential. It’s no accident that leading UK soccer clubs Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea are sponsored by Chevrolet, Standard Chartered and Yokohama respectively – all brands targeting a global audience. Chevrolet don’t even sell vehicles in the UK.

Jersey sponsorship will happen here in the US, and fans will accept it. Leagues and brands, however, must look past the jersey as simply prime estate, instead seeing it as a chance to help share the very beating heart of the team.

Respect this, enhance it and tap into the fan culture, and it’s among the most powerful assets in a sponsorship arsenal. Get it wrong and it’s an expensive – and very public – mistake.

This blog comes from Synergy’s Now, New & Next sponsorship and entertainment outlook for 2016, which can be viewed in full here.

What the art of storytelling can learn from a whale called ‘Big Blue.’

A few months ago we made a beautiful short film telling the inspirational story of a big wave surfer from Maui. We spent months scouting the island for perfect locations, practicing with drones and underwater cameras and developing the narrative, storyboard, script and soundtrack. All this with a view to making not just a film but a ‘social content pack’ of main edits, making-ofs, YouTube trailers, Instagram teasers, Twitter posters, Facebook gifs and media editorial. The success of this ‘film’ would be defined by its social engagement, which these days means (infuriatingly un-ambitiously) how many people watched more than half of it on YouTube!

The production team decamped to Hawaii for the shoot with storyboard in one hand and camera in the other. On day one we shot out in the ocean, grabbing footage of our surf star paddling his board, silhouetted against the setting sun. Nice work if you can get it. And then, out of the blue, quite literally, a humpback whale rose majestically out of the water, ten feet from our man. She gave him the beady eye, shot a gentle ‘hello’ from her blowhole, rolled to the right…and went back down from whence she came.

Blimey. A massive whale. A real one.

It took us a while to take in what had happened. Our new surfer friend hadn’t experienced anything quite like it before – you can see his reaction on film. Our Director was frantically checking to see what we’d caught (it was good). Our client’s excitement blew their ‘this wasn’t on the storyboard’ concerns out of the water. ‘Big Blue’ – as she became known – had thrown us a bit of a curve ball.

Over the coming weeks, across the rest of the shoot and throughout the editing process, Big Blue had quite an effect on things. Fundamentally, we now had a ‘killer shot’ to play with that we hadn’t planned for! How should we use it? Old-fashioned storytelling suggests you might save it for a climactic moment. Today’s YouTube metrics tell us to stick the money shot up front and secure the eyeballs early on. But, more importantly than all this, Big Blue reminded us of three fundamentals of the art of storytelling:

1. Create stories that have room to breathe. Any story that only works if every shot is captured as sketched on the storyboard and every line of script is delivered word-perfect will never have the emotional depth of a story that can go it’s own way. Yes, we need the brand story to sit strong at the core. The trick is to keep the narrative big enough to allow some freedom.

2. Be creatively ambitious, not a slave to media metrics.
Story first, channel second. A great story, well told to a receptive audience will overpower all the cynical media metrics you can throw at it. We didn’t use Big Blue’s surprise appearance for our opening shot. We drew the viewer in with a subtle underwater sequence…then hit ‘em hard with the whale! From then on, you know you’re in for a ride.

3. Always be open-minded about where a story could go on set. True creativity doesn’t like rules. Yes, you need a core narrative to stay true to – and in the world of marketing this is quite rightly what the brand wants to get across. But, beware the storyboard written in stone. Keep your narrative tight enough to say what you want to say, but loose enough to allow different ways to say it.

Channel proliferation, cynical media metrics and ‘best practice’ techniques are leading the art of storytelling down a commoditised and formulaic path.

When Big Blue said hello that day, she didn’t just help us make a great film. She reminded us that we should always be ambitious and stay open to that little bit of magic that could come along at any moment. When hopefully the cameras will be rolling…

Fit For Kings: Is The UK The Next Big Thing For DraftKings?

In case you’ve missed it, Daily Fantasy Sport (DFS) could be one of the next big things on this side of the pond. After explosive and very rapid growth in the US, DFS is now looking to export its success to the UK, with DraftKings recently signing partnership agreements with Arsenal, Liverpool and Watford. DFS involves selecting Fantasy Sports Teams, with an entry fee and prize money that can reach millions of dollars. As I said back in 2014, gamification of sport is a huge industry, and the dramatic growth of DFS is testament to this.

DraftKings and FanDuel are the industry leaders in the USA, following an ad blitz, several high-profile sponsorships, and a number of legal battles. At the heart of these battles is whether Daily Fantasy Sports should be viewed as gambling or not. Joe Asher, William Hill CEO, feels that DFS “is gambling and it should be regulated as such”, although you can understand why an established betting firm would feel that way.

Both DraftKings and FanDuel have courted controversy in the USA through high profile advertising and sponsorship campaigns, running a TV advert every 90 seconds, spending a combined $150m in Q3 of 2015. The ubiquity of the adverts caused a backlash in November (illustrated below) from viewers and sports fans, but some argue that it has only alienated those who would never use the service, doing little damage to the business itself.

Beyond the plethora of team and league sponsorships, DFS providers have partnered with major events such as the Belmont Stakes (presented by Draft Kings) and Stadium Lounges like the Draft Ops Ice Club and the Draft Kings Fantasy Lounge, which will “give visitors an interactive place to gather and play DraftKings”. The deliberate move to partner with teams, leagues, events and lounges has caught the eye to the extent that it is hard to avoid the presence of DFS providers in the USA. Primetime sponsored shows such as NFL Insider on ESPN have been compared to “a DraftKings infomercial disguised as a pregame show“. For those in the UK who watch Premier League football, it’s similar to the pervasive presence of betting firms.

It might not be a popular, or progressive method of brand-building, but this ubiquitous brand presence across sporting and media platforms has quickly established DraftKings and FanDuel as the dominant players. As is often the case, sponsorship has been used to legitimise their brands, but this may all be in vain if they lose their legal battle in the US - it is perhaps telling that at this stage, the NFL have opted against signing a partnership with either FanDuel or DraftKings.

The expansion of DraftKings into the UK could also inadvertently jeopardise their domestic operations, due to the requirement of a gambling licence through the UK Gaming Commission. Obtaining this could be seen as an admission that DFS is indeed gambling, and that won’t have gone unnoticed by Attorney Generals across America. As payment processors step away from DFS providers, international expansion can be seen as spreading risk, in case of protracted legal battles in the US.

Whilst DraftKings and Fan Duel are available as an alternative to gambling for Americans, it will be tougher for DraftKings to cut through and at the same time differentiate their offer in a mature betting market like the UK. Given how commonplace betting adverts are, achieving both cut-through and differentiation will be difficult, as it is now possible to bet on Fantasy Football, to receive tips on your Fantasy Football team from betting firms or play Fantasy Football for cash prizes.

Having announced Arsenal, Liverpool and Watford partnership deals in February, we are yet to see DraftKings make much of a move on the UK market…and they are not even listed as a partner on the website of the latter two clubs. Given the popularity of Fantasy Football in the UK and an established gambling market, it is surely only a matter of time until we see DraftKings make their mark here. If their approach is anything like their domestic strategy, you’re unlikely to miss it.

Back to Hockey: a winning approach to grassroots

Trying to fit playing sport around work and having a social life is difficult especially when you haven’t played since leaving school or university. What can be done to help rectify this? In 2010 England Netball created Back to Netball, an initiative which has helped encourage women who thought their playing days were over to get back into the sport. The campaign has been hugely successful with over 60,000 women getting back into netball which has naturally benefited the sport from grassroots to the elite game.

England Hockey took a leaf out of the same book a few years back to create their own Back to Hockey campaign – using eye-catching creative to get lapsed players back into the sport, more recently evolving the initiative to make it as relevant and powerful to audiences as possible.

Reinventing Back to Hockey

2014 was a hugely successful year for the initiative, with 53% of players stating they wanted to take part in more Back to Hockey sessions within the club environment. This subsequently saw over 2,500 players regularly attend Back to Hockey sessions across England. To innovate for this year’s campaign, England Hockey connected with Sport England campaign ‘This Girl Can’, which has helped to improve and build upon the marketing of the initiative.

By using the same principle as Back to Netball, England Hockey have been encouraging hockey clubs to reach out into their local communities and encourage former players – women in particular – to put on their trainers and head towards their local club. Attracting female players back into sport has traditionally been a difficult task as there are numerous barriers to participation for them, therefore, the investment that governing bodies make towards similar campaigns is vital towards their success. Not only are England Hockey making the scheme more appealing to clubs by emphasising the potential of attracting new members, they are also encouraging clubs to use their own social media channels to help spread the word of the initiative further afield.

My own hockey club, Winchmore Hill and Enfield HC, has taken part in Back to Hockey this year, which has seen a massive positive impact within the club, as well as a growing interest in hockey from media within our local community. With the sports pages traditionally dominated by football and cricket, our local paper has helped us advertise the weekly sessions, which has widened our search for new ‘lapsed’ recruits. With the help of new creative content from the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, there has been a focus on combining simple skill-based drills with games, which has helped to slowly introduce lapsed players back into the sport.

Not only have we gained new members who have already started playing in our summer league teams, attendees have loved the laid back, enjoyable style of each session, which has seen us retain 70% of attendees from the first sessions we ran. From my own experience of the campaign, I’ve noticed a huge positive effect it has had, not only on our club members volunteering to coach and umpire each session, but also on how much the lapsed players have grown in confidence since we launched our weekly Back to Hockey sessions a few weeks ago. This has been particularly evident in our female players.

New Marketing Approach

In marketing terms, England Hockey’s tie-up with ‘This Girl Can’ has allowed them to produce a variety of content with a similar creative look and feel. The content has been shared via the governing body’s social media channels, which the participating Back to Hockey clubs across the nation have reciprocated through their own channels. Aligning with the high-profile ‘This Girl Can’ campaign has given Back to Hockey a shot in the arm, and allowed them to reach a wider target audience than it would have done previously. Using copy and imagery which is both inviting and current, especially for a more predominant female audience, has allowed the campaign to become much more relatable for the lapsed players.

This new content has also seen England Hockey completely readdress their current marketing of the women’s team, which previously would have had the same approach as the men’s. England Hockey have not only identified that when they are promoting the women’s team to a female audience they shouldn’t be focusing on the physical nature of the sport, but also that they should be showcasing the sport in a different environment. Profiling the women’s team in articles like The Daily Telegraph’s recent piece has highlighted the current shift in perception of the sport, which has seen an increased appetite for televised coverage of matches and internationals to be played within the UK.

England Hockey and England Netball have created impressive and engaging initiatives that challenge the significant drop-off in sports participation between school and adult life, with England Hockey’s connection to ‘This Girl Can’ hugely aiding their cause.

Is this simple concept something that other sports can learn from and adapt to their own sports? I definitely think so.

A Synergy Blog presented by Microassets Ltd*

*Microassets Ltd. is the world-leading provider of small ‘features’ within a bigger sponsorship asset, including content, giveaways, challenges, stats and in-game moments than can be sold to a Presenting Partner.

On a recent trip to New York, Tim Crow and I had the pleasure of going to Madison Square Garden to watch the New York Knicks take on the Indiana Pacers. Anyone who has followed the NBA this year knew that we were unlikely to witness a basketball masterclass or a win for the home team. Rather, we were going for a first-hand experience of US sports marketing and sponsorship activation. And where better than in one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues?

We certainly got more than we bargained for. Here’s what we found (and I promise I’m not making any of this up):

  1. We were told to collect our tickets at the North Concierge presented by Lenox Hill Hospital. I have no idea if the South, East or West Concierge had different presenting partners
  2. The game was part of an NBA-wide Latin Night presented by Sprite which “celebrates the growing support of NBA fans and players across Latin American and U.S. Hispanic communities”
  3. In an early time-out break, we were treated to the Cub Reporter presented by Hi-Chew, a neat little segment where the big screen showed a kid interviewing Roger Federer. The best bit: all the Pacers’ players were looking up and watching it rather than listening to their coach
  4. There was a controversial “out-of bounds” call. Luckily, we had the Official Review presented by Chase to make sure the refs made the correct decision
  5. The entertainment kept coming at the end of the first quarter with Dance Like a Champion presented by Norwegian Cruise Line. Two members of the audience had a (admittedly hilarious) dance-off for the right to win a big cardboard cut-out of a ship and a cruise with the sponsor
  6. As always, there were plenty of celebrities at courtside including Jesse’s dead girlfriend from Breaking Bad, the big dude from Blind Side, one of the inmates from Orange is the New Black, and Mahoney from Police Academy. We saw them all courtesy of Celebrity Row presented by Douglas Elliman
  7. The T-Shirt Toss presented by Kia showed us exactly what lengths people will go to catch a promotional t-shirt that is probably worth about $1
  8. Clearly, they just couldn’t blast enough t-shirts into the crowd with their measly “one-at-a-time” t-shirt cannons. Thankfully, there was the Mega T-Shirt Machine presented by Foxwoods, which, as the name suggests, raised both the quantity and distance of the t-shirts blasted quite considerably. It was a bit strange, though, that it was presented by a different sponsor to the standard t-shirt toss
  9. The Madison Square Garden has hosted some remarkable events in its history. Garden 366 presented by SAP gave us a taste of some of them on the big screen. I still haven’t worked out why it’s called “Garden 366” though – maybe the number of days in a leap year?
  10. The Knicks City Kids presented by Hi-Chew were an awesome troupe of young dancers/cheerleaders throwing some shapes to Carlos Santana (it was Latin Night remember), MC Hammer and others
  11. It is always brilliant to see your MSG-related tweet on the big screen. Luckily, Tweet Your Message presented by Duracell Powermat could make that happen, presumably while your phone was being charged
  12. The Half Time Highlights presented by Chase reminded people how and why the Knicks were losing again
  13. The Half Time Scores (from around the league) presented by Douglas Elliman reminded people that the Knicks weren’t going to make the play-offs
  14. There was another controversial moment and this time the referees could turn to the Official Review Replay presented by Delta. Wait, I though Official Reviews were presented by Chase?
  15. There is no doubt that US rightsholders do a huge amount of positive work in their local communities. In one of the breaks during the third quarter, the big screen told us all about one of these initiatives: Community Assist presented by Garden Veggie Snacks
  16. While we were all lucky just to be there, there was one fan that was even more lucky than the rest of us: the Lucky Fan presented by Sprite. I’m not sure what he or she won…maybe a year’s supply of Sprite
  17. The 3rd Quarter Stats presented by Delta reminded us that the Knicks were still losing in pretty much every statistical category
  18. We found out what was happening in the night’s other games with Scores from Around the League presented by Terra Vegetable Chips. Wait, I thought Scores from Around the League was presented by Douglas Elliman?
  19. As the tension ramped up and the game neared its conclusion, we had the Final 5 (minutes) presented by Foxwoods. It probably would have helped had the game been a bit closer
  20. At the end of the game, the best play of the night was awarded the Drive of the Game presented by Kia
  21. It was also important to remind people not to drink and drive which is why we had the Good Sport Designated Driver presented by Bud Light
  22. Trees for Threes presented by PWC made sure that we could all go home with the knowledge that there would be a tree planted for every three-pointer made during the game
  23. Finally, on our way out we walked past the Lexus show cars. They looked great but they looked lost. Why were they there? How could fans experience them? How were Lexus capturing leads?

We couldn’t quite believe the sheer intensity of the brand bombardment that we had just experienced. But when we told one US sports marketing veteran about it, his response was simple: “Welcome to America!”

Really? Is this the direction that sports marketing in the US is heading? Is the Madison Square Garden a template for the future or a relic of the past? Will the future just be an endless collection of semi-meaningless assets like “The FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Week” (NFL), “The Dominos #DomiNoNos” (MLB) and “The Dunkin Donuts Dunks of the Week” (actually that last one doesn’t exist, but it probably should)?

The appeal of this model for rightsholders is obvious. It’s about carving up rights into smaller and smaller pieces and creating saleable “micro-assets” out of thin air – basically money for old rope. Who can’t see the appeal of that? But that’s only if you see sponsorship as a zero-sum game – a transaction rather than a true partnership.

The best way for rightsholders to create more value for themselves is by focusing on creating more value for their sponsors, and then figuring out ways to tap into that incremental value; not by coming up with more and more things to sell them. And the plain truth is that this model isn’t particularly good at creating value for the sponsors.

First and foremost, and at an incredibly basic level, with 16 different brands all vying for a bit of attention at this particular event, there are simply too many brands present without enough whitespace between them. The problem isn’t the number of brands per se, but the fact that they are all basically doing the same thing (sticking their name on a particular feature), meaning that none of them are really memorable. Without scrolling up, try to remember who the presenting partner of the mega T-shirt machine was, or what Terra Vegetable Chips sponsored.

Great sponsorship needs a Big Idea: a powerful insight that connects the brand to the audience via the asset they are sponsoring, and an activation campaign which brings that Big Idea to life through different channels, over time and in new and interesting ways. But frankly, it’s really hard to see how any of the items on the list above connect to a bigger, more meaningful insight or are part of a broader, more engaging activation programme.

Sure, there are some obvious connections like the fact that the ‘drive of the game’ was being presented by a car company or that the two assets involving children are presented by a brand of chewy sweets. In fact, I’m pretty certain that someone, somewhere has come up with a logical justification for all of them (“We dance on Norwegian Cruise Line Ships so we should sponsor Dance Like a Champion”; “Trees for Threes rhymes with PWC” etc.)…but, in truth, none of them help to tell a meaningful and compelling brand story that the audience cares about. Because, to do that, you have to go beyond the obvious.

Also, it was hard to see how any of the activity we saw in the building was part of a broader campaign. Clearly, Sprite’s Latin Night was part of a bigger NBA-wide sponsorship property, but nothing happened on the night to give it that sense. Is there a PR or social media component to Douglas Elliman’s celebrity spotting? Do Chase have a campaign around helping people make better decisions which their sponsorship of the video review brings to life? Do Delta use stats in any of their other marketing communications?

If the answer to all these questions is “no”, then what’s the point of even doing them? The fact is that none of these “micro-assets” are big enough to stand on their own, so if they aren’t part of a bigger campaign, they are just tactical media buys that reach the 18,000 people inside Madison Square Garden.

Surely that’s no template for the future.

Bloodmarketing: is Red the new Black?

Back in summer 2012, the sponsorship industry witnessed a seminal CSR activation by Hemoba, a Brazilian blood bank and Brazilian football club Vitória, with their ‘My Blood is Red & Black’ campaign. Synergy’s colleagues in Brazil wrote about the activity at the time in their review of the year, picking it out for special praise.

As a quick reminder for anyone unaware of the activity (so that’s probably just … ), the concept revolved around the insight that people in Brazil only give blood when inspired to do so by someone they really care about. So who better to donate for than the club you love?

From this singular insight the club created a clear, cute and well-intentioned campaign, the centre-piece of which saw the red of Vitória’s famous red and black shirts leeched white. As fans committed to blood banks across Bahia State, the club shirts steadily regained their iconic colour.

Again, you can’t argue with the results for Hemoba – who marked an increase in donations of 46% – or Vitória itself, as there has scarcely been a more appropriate example of fans giving their blood, sweat and tears for their team shirt.

So why mention this again?

Well, because last week it was announced that anyone giving blood (okay, anyone in Denmark, in a prescribed location, at a defined time…) would be given a copy of the new PlayStation 4 game, Bloodborne.

With multiple rave reviews, and a RRP of £49.99 (or around 500 Danish Krone), there’s little question this represents a good deal. Even Danes not able to make the donation session on March 23rd in Copenhagen were still encouraged to sign up to give blood, as those that add ‘PS4′ after their name on the GivBlod donor list, have the chance to win a PlayStation 4 console.

Why target gamers? GivBlod have established that there is currently a shortage of male blood in Denmark, so used what they considered a traditionally male platform to incentivise action.

Why Bloodborne? Well, the hemoglobic connection was probably too good to miss, plus it’s a game with a PEGI rating of 16, meaning if you’re buying it, there’s a chance you meet the 17 years-and-over legal age to give blood in Denmark.

With largely positive (if a little quippy) feedback from the online community, it suggests that PlayStation and GivBlod are on to something here.

Question will be whether they use this mechanic to engage more broadly than the stereotypical male gamer demographic, particularly since in Denmark this passion point is actually not quite as definitively XY as assumed (although PS4 ownership might be).

Moreover, if looking at the Europe-wide statistics, it’s clear that female gamers are in fact becoming more and more prominent.

In the wake of #Gamergate, it’s all the more important that advertisers, brands and associated stakeholders consider the wider gamer demographics as a relevant group to engage.

Regardless, it’s unlikely that this is the last we’ll see of consumer incentivisation meeting a product launch beyond the initial Danish blood test.

A year like no other: Synergy’s 2014

As another year comes to an end, now seems a suitable time to reflect on a whirlwind 12 months for Synergy.

Here we outline some of our most innovative work in 2014, what the wider implications are for the industry, and what other campaigns have caught our eye and set the benchmark for what will undoubtedly be another busy and exciting year:


What we did:

2014 kicked off slightly early for some of the team at Synergy, who were at Twickenham activating IG’s inaugural sponsorship of The Big Game. Through the ‘Big Game, Bright Lights’ campaign, we looked to capitalise on the down-time that half-time offers and re-invigorate the crowd for the second half. By innovatively using Twickenham’s LED inventory, fans experienced an audio-visual spectacular that connected IG’s brand with Harlequins and gave fans the chance to win some amazing prizes.

Industry insight:

Half-time at sports games have often felt like a necessary evil for sports fans in the UK; a short break to allow the players to recover and fans to visit the facilities. The Pepsi Half-time show at the SuperBowl in February emphasised that US sport is still the benchmark for half-time entertainment, but IG’s work at Twickenham showed that, with a clear insight and innovative use of standard sponsorship inventory, the half-time break may no longer simply be used as an excuse to get the drinks in.


What we did:

The RBS 6 Nations tends to dominate the sporting agenda in February, and is often when Synergy is at its most active. As part of the RBS 6 Nations activation, Synergy helped to produce a series of films based on defining moments from the tournament. These films truly encapsulated the values of sportsmanship, perseverance and teamwork that the brand and the fans love about The Championship.

Industry insight:

Capturing sport’s inherent ‘truths’ like this, and amplifying them to produce content of interest, based on real insight, is a gift that fans want to receive. Guinness also managed this feat, with their films in honour of Jonny Wilkinson, Shane Williams and Bill McLaren, whilst Barclays’s impressively moving Premier League film captured the essence of the match day experience that makes football so special for fans, and so valued by brands.


What we did:

The Capital One Cup Final in March saw the climax of Capital One’s season-long campaign focused on ‘supporting the supporters’. As part of the Final activity, Capital One looked to maximise the audience of the final by offering free Now TV passes to those not lucky enough to have access to Sky Sports. This was a big gesture that delivered true value to football fans, who would otherwise have missed the first final of the 2013/14 season.

Industry insight:

Extending the true excitement of an event beyond those lucky enough to attend is a challenge facing a number of brands and rightsholders. However, alongside Capital One’s work, there have been a number of other examples in 2014 of brands bringing events closer to non-ticket-holders. Two that we particularly enjoyed were The National Theatre’s continued commitment to its National Theatre Live programme, which involves live screenings of theatre shows at local cinemas, and Manchester United’s partnership with Google+ that allowed fans around the world to ‘be’ at Old Trafford by appearing live on the pitch-side perimeter boards.


What we did:

In order to kick off MasterCard’s partnership with Rugby World Cup 2015, Synergy created a photo moment on the Thames involving All Blacks legend Dan Carter kicking conversions over Tower Bridge. As emphasised on the Synergy blog, a good photo idea has to be reinforced with insight and good management in order to be successful. Both of these boxes were emphatically ticked here, with the resultant images capturing the imagination of the national media and providing one of the most compelling sports PR shots in recent memory.

Industry insight:

Other striking PR shots that grabbed our attention this year included the Yorkshire Building Society dying 150 sheep yellow in honour of the Tour de France and Puma’s water projection on The Thames to launch the new Arsenal kit. Once again, these examples looked fresh and innovative and therefore excited the media and fans alike.

What we did:

BUPA’s ‘My First Step’ campaign looked to get more people running by emphasising the ease with which people could start, or re-start, training. As part of the planning, BUPA and Synergy found that 60% of UK adults believed that their bodies would not be up to running once they reached 60, a myth BUPA looked to dispel as part of the campaign. 63 year-old non-runner Jennie Bond was recruited as an ambassador, as we followed her training journey that culminated in her completing the BUPA London 10,000 event.

Industry insight:

Consumer insight is clearly crucial for a successful sponsorship campaign, with the best examples based on thorough planning. Whilst the success of the ‘My First Step’ campaign was built on a relevant and robust consumer insight, we make no excuses for including another piece of Synergy work from 2014 that emphasised the importance of understanding a target audience. Ahead of Round 4 of the Capital One Cup, Capital One gave Brian Clough-style green jumpers to Nottingham Forest’s away fans at Tottenham as a tribute to their legendary manager. The story and images received widespread acclaim and, whilst the execution was impressive, the success of the story was thanks to the team’s insight around the 10th anniversary of Clough’s death and his unforgettable status within the game.


What we did:

June at Synergy signalled the launch of Coca-Cola’s ParkLives project. Following many months of in-depth planning and research, the aim of getting more people more active more often was brought to life through this bespoke programme in partnership with local councils, which provides free activity classes for local people in local parks in cities across the UK.

Industry insight:

The planning for the ParkLives campaign re-iterated that self-created programmes can often be the best way for brands to achieve their CSR goals, rather than simply buying an off-the-shelf proposition. Another great example of this in 2014 was Western Union’s ‘Pass’ programme around the brand’s UEFA Europa League sponsorship. Each successful pass made during the competition signified a contribution of financial support for quality education of young people around the world.


What we did:

The SSE team at Synergy were up in Glasgow at the 2014 Commonwealth Games for the culmination of the brand’s GoGlasgow campaign. One of our many roles up in Scotland was managing SSE’s experiential activity on Glasgow Green, which allowed fans to capture a unique photo of themselves supporting their nation. Importantly this activity linked seamlessly into SSE’s wider campaign and fed into a digital leaderboard that acted as a real-time tracker on the conversations around the Games.

Industry insight:

Whilst by no means a new trend, by linking the experiential activity to the wider campaign and creating a strong digital output, the reach of SSE’s footprint went far beyond those lucky people at the Glasgow Green live site, and therefore generated significant engagement levels. Another really simple idea that we loved from this year was Nescafé’s activity in Croatia that again blended the online and offline world simply and effectively to create a fun and shareable experience.


What we did:

A couple of crazy days in late August saw Synergy manage the media launches for both the Guinness Pro 12 and Aviva Premiership 2014/15 rugby seasons, and give journalists, staff and fans unique access to two of the biggest club rugby competitions in Europe. The Guinness launch focused on staff engagement at Diageo’s global HQ in London, which gave employees the chance to quiz the Pro 12 captains; whilst Aviva’s event at Twickenham harnessed the Twitter reach of several of the players by creating the first ever ‘Captains selfie’ which provided fans with a fun, new viewpoint of the launch.

Industry insight:

One of the obvious benefits of sponsorship as a marketing tool is the ability for a brand to give their target audience behind-the-scenes access to something about which they care passionately. Whilst not specifically a launch, The FA’s use of the trophy to promote the sense of adventure around the upcoming third round of The FA Cup is a heart-warming example of a rightsholder giving fans unique access to something special (in this case, young fans being able to take the trophy on a series of their own adventures).


What we did:

2014 has been a massive year for Martini and Synergy, as we have helped take the iconic stripes back to the Formula 1 grid through the title partnership of Williams Martini Racing. In September, at Martini’s home race at Monza, a massive pan-European trade promotion reached its climax, with consumers and trade partners having the chance to experience an exclusive Italian weekend. This included rooftop parties, power boating on Lake Como and, of course, access to the Italian Grand Prix itself, and Synergy were on-hand to ensure this massive operation ran smoothly.

Industry insight:

Global sponsorships don’t get much bigger that a Formula 1 car deal, and Martini have used their sponsorship effectively to create unique promotions that engage with their target audiences. We also loved Coca-Cola’s huge FIFA World Cup on-pack promotion – offering consumers the chance to win one of a million footballs. For a brand that is committed to helping people get more active, this was a bold statement of intent. The additional element of a 10p donation to StreetGames for every purchase showed a brand that is embracing the Social Era and also reiterated that sponsorship, shopper marketing and CSR can work brilliantly together when applied correctly.


What we did:

October was all about The 2014 Ryder Cup, and the BMW and SLI teams at Synergy used their sponsorships in very different ways to achieve their objectives. BMW focused on generating sales leads and bringing fans closer to the action, with all activity centring on the #DriveYourTeam hashtag, whilst SLI used the tournament to demonstrate their ‘World Class As Standard ‘proposition. Two unique content strategies helped to achieve these objectives, with BMW focusing on using Twitter to create relevant and reactive golf content for fans and SLI creating long-form video content with ambassadors Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange to connect the World Class attributes of The Ryder Cup with Standard Life Investments.

Industry insight:

As we all know, a single sporting platform can be approached in very different ways, and a third brand (this time a non-sponsor) who once again used The Ryder Cup as a prime PR opportunity was Paddy Power, and we loved their approach, using a tongue-in-cheek appearance from Nigel Farage to extol the virtues of Europe coming together.


What we did:

The QBE Internationals are always a busy time in Synergy’s calendar and this year we were busy creating fantastic social content for our new client, and England kit manufacturer, Canterbury. Using Canterbury’s innovative new shirt fabric as our literal canvas and creating messaging that linked the product with the team, we were able to put an innovative spin on real-time messaging and put the shirt at the heart of Canterbury’s content.

Industry insight:

As the fan appetite for real-time content continues to grow, the evolving challenge for brands is how to get serious cut-through from their communications. We therefore also liked Virgin Media’s real-time newsroom during the Commonwealth Games, which created fun, amusing and – most importantly – differentiated sponsor content throughout the Games.


What we did:

December has seen another milestone reached for Synergy, as the first instalment in a series of Royal Salute videos inspired by the world of horsemanship, reached over a million views on YouTube (across four geo-tagged edits for different markets). This visually stunning video beautifully encapsulates the bond between man and horse, and is perfectly in keeping with a luxury brand with a strong heritage in polo.

Industry insight:

We have thought about some of the other content we have enjoyed in 2014 and in no particular order, three of our favourites include:

Beats By Dre – The Game Before The Game

The ultimate ambusher pulled off a masterstroke – brilliantly framing the key moment before a game (the moment when Beats headphones have an obvious and key role for the players) with a little help from among others – Neymar (and his dad), Fabregas, Van Persie, Lebron, Serena and even the two stars of the World Cup final – Schweinsteiger and Gotze. The presence of the pantomime villain Suarez didn’t even detract from it!

Nike Football – The Last Game

We loved how Nike brought out the personalities of their superstars and used animation in a fresh and interesting way, helping them to get around the obvious problems of bringing together a wealth of their talent for a shoot. The medium also opened the door brilliantly to the unique #AskZlatan real-time content series.

Always #LikeAGirl

A very different video – and one that doesn’t rely on any talent costs or high production values – but in an incredibly focused, simple and beautiful way reinforces Always’ commitment to empowering girls globally.

What do all of these videos have in common? All four of them are (in very different ways) tapping into something of genuine interest and relevance – whether a moment or a movement – and therefore people in their millions have actively chosen to watch, talk about and share them.

For Synergy, 2014 has unquestionably been a year to savour in sponsorship – here’s to another great year for the industry in 2015.

#ChangeBrazil: The Implications For Brands & Sponsorship

by Bruno Scartozzoni and Guilherme Guimarães

As Tom Jobim, the great Brazilian musician and composer said, “Brazil is not for beginners”.

When Brazil entered the new democratic period in the mid 1980s, it started to change quickly. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the intellectual president from the social democrat party, took control of hyperinflation, opened the Brazilian economy, reduced government participation in the economy and started important reforms in order to rationalize the state. This was essential to the next phase, when Lula, the charismatic president from the labour party, created all kinds of social programs, giving power of purchase to poor people for the first time in Brazil’s history.

These elements awoke the Brazilian internal market of people hungry for consumption, and, in simple words, that’s the reason why the 2008 global crisis didn’t hit Brazil as hard as it did the rest of the world. And then, suddenly, Brazil was on everybody’s radar, for successful World Cup and Olympics bids.


Now comes the bad part of this story.

Despite the economic progress of the last 20 years, our politicians did not achieve other important goals desired by Brazilians.

In contrast to our status as the sixth biggest economy in the world, our public services, especially health, education and security, are at the opposite end of the scale. Add to this corruption scandals with no prosecutions and one of the most unequal distributions of wealth in the world and you have the full picture.

The Protests

On 3 June a small leftist group called MPL – Movimento Passe Livre (Free Transport Movement) – which campaigns for free public transport in Brazil’s cities, started protests when the new São Paulo mayor announced a R$0,20 (US$0,09) raise in bus, subway and train ticket prices. To start with, most of the population didn’t care less about it, but each day the campaigners managed to congregate more and more people.

The turning point came on June 13, when policemen treated the protesters with disproportionate force, which triggered the population to use the R$0.20 increase as a symbol for something much bigger. It started to represent the poor public services, corrupt politicians, and the threat of hyper inflation. And just like the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring, social media played a crucial role in scaling the protests and the protest ecosystem: suddenly politics became the only subject that mattered on Facebook and Twitter, which is really new for Brazil.

Coincidentally (or not) it all peaked at the beginning of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

For some time Brazilians had been saying in a resigned way ‘Imagina na Copa’, meaning ‘If it’s this bad now, imagine what it will be like during the World Cup’. Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s not surprising this grew into the protests.

The cost of the new and re-built World Cup stadiums had steadily risen from initial estimates and is more than the last three World Cups combined. They are being paid for by public money, in contrast to the promise, when Brazil won the right to stage the World Cup, that they would be privately funded. Add to that that other improvements linked to the World Cup and promised by government like new subway lines will not be ready by 2014, together with the poor reputations of the CBF and FIFA, and you have a time bomb.

It exploded on June 17, with protests in every major Brazilian city, which are now happening every day and night. In the streets and on social media, people started saying Brazil not only wants stadiums, but also health and education to “FIFA standards”.


It’s difficult to predict how and when #ChangeBrazil will end. Ticket raises are being cancelled by the minute, and the President has promised new infrastructure investment and a referendum on political reform, but people are going to the streets anyway. It’s the biggest social movement in the country’s recent history, and probably the first one above party political interests. As the population is claiming, it is democratic, mostly peaceful (until now) and beautiful!

The most visible impact of the protests on brands is that some of the protests’ most-used slogans have been adapted from recent brand campaigns.

Johnnie Walker’s ‘O Gigande Acordou’ (‘The giant is awake’) campaign showed the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain standing up and walking. The line was a reference to Brazilians’ commonly-held view that Brazil is a giant sleeping eternally.

Fiat used ‘Vem Pa Rua’ (‘Come To The Streets’) as its line in a football-themed campaign to ambush the Confederations Cup (they are not FIFA sponsors).

And Vick, the cough drops brand, were also trying to hijack the Confederation Cup, by promoting the hashtag #chupaessa (#suckthis) on Twitter.

As soon as the protests started, people h-jacked these brand slogans, all of which became part of the movement, used in placards on the streets, and on Facebook and Twitter.

There are also examples of brands actively using #ChangeBrazil in their communication.

In fact, almost everyone is doing something about it on Facebook, most of them being more conservative, with generic patriotic posts.

Stores near Paulista Avenue, the epicenter of #ChangeBrazil, are using the movement’s elements in their displays. Store owners said that they are trying to engage with the moment and avoid looting.

However, the most interesting #ChangeBrazil ‘activation’ so far has been by Spoleto, a big Italian fast food chain from Grupo Trigo, who license Domino’s Pizza in Brazil. They released a manifesto on their Facebook fanpage, basically saying that they would be opening that space for political discussion, and any brand activation would would be ceased for a week.


The discussion in advertising forums is about the possibility of brands taking a clear stand. Should they? Fiat thought it was better to leave the conversation and ended their campaign ‘as planned’ on June 22. Spoleto went the other way.

It will be interesting as well to see which way Brahma will go. The beer brand, which is a World Cup sponsor, was one of the few sponsors meaningfully activating the World Cup association in Brazil, and the only one positioning itself around discussions of the World Cup being good or bad for the country. Last year they released a very emotional and positive campaign telling Brazilians to care less about problems and imagine the party that will take place in 2014. It was a bold move, and divided public opinion.

Will they stand for this message after #ChangeBrazil? It’s another question impossible to predict, but they could broaden the optimistic message. “Imagine the party. Imagine a new (better) country.”



FIFA, Big Sport and The Protests

As #ChangeBrazil is partly a reaction to the government’s astronomic spending on the World Cup, many in the international media have questioned Brazilians’ attitude to the World Cup (especially) and the Olympics.

In fact, most Brazilians don’t think the World Cup and the Olympics are the problem. Most dreamed about hosting a World Cup again, and the Olympics are welcome too. Winning the bids is a proof that the world is finally taking us seriously, and it’s very nice for everyone’s ego!

The problem is how the events were ‘sold’ to the Brazilian public, the reality of our infrastructure versus the huge spending on the World Cup, and, as David Owen wrote recently, the evident complacency of FIFA and ‘Big Sport’.

As probably everyone in the world knows now, FIFA has got its PR strategy totally wrong in Brazil, notably when Sepp Blatter told protestors that they should not link their grievances to football, whilst at the same time Neymar was so visibly supporting the protests, and Paolo Andre, the former Corinthians player, recalled that football had been used as a tool of mass control in the past, but now it was the people’s turn to use sport to call attention to their demands.

From here, it’s difficult to see how FIFA can recover its image in Brazil in time for the World Cup, which obviously has big implications for all the FIFA sponsors, who’ll now need to re-think their activation strategies in Brazil.

#ChangeBrazil: 10 Action Points For Brands & Sponsorship




1. Brazil’s sense of its identity is changing very fast, and more than ever before, brands – both Brazilian and international – will need to listen to consumers and re-think their positioning and messaging. Brazilian values have always been attached to happiness, being easygoing, hard-working and, of course, the ultimate clichés: samba, beaches and football. This kind of thing still reflects what Brazil is, but June 2013 has changed it, evolved it, and made it much more complex.2. An example is what’s happening now. People still care about the performance of the Brazilian team in the Confederations Cup, but conversations in bars are split between football and politics, and this is new, very new.

3. Now it’s clear that Brazilians are deeply concerned about social issues, which means that brands will need to increase their CSR efforts, especially if they are going to try to wave the Brazilian flag . Those that already have strong CSR credentials have a big advantage: those that don’t have to move very, very fast to have permission to do business in Brazil, let alone marketing.

4. There is lots of white space to integrate sports with CSR in Brazil. We expect to see a big increase in sponsorship of social development programmes and Paralympic sports, for example, but there’s plenty of room in other causes too.

5. CSR campaigns don’t need to be dull. As we wrote recently, there have been some amazing campaigns fusing sport and CSR in Brazil in the last year or so, one of which recently won one of the top awards in Cannes.

6. Celebrities who are out of touch with #ChangeBrazil are a real risk for brands. The untouchables Pele and Ronaldo lost huge credibility with Brazilians after poorly chosen words about the protests – although to be fair Ronaldo’s were said in 2011. Conversely, others such as David Luiz, Dani Alves, and volleyball player Bruno Resende are in the ascendant after stating they were worried about their performance, but that they were proud and concerned about the Brazilians on the streets.

7. Naming rights sponsorship has started to gain momentum this year and looks likely to keep growing. But brands will be wary of the downsides of associating themselves with ‘FIFA’ stadiums, especially the three potential white elephants in Brasília, Cuiaba and Manaus.

8. Brazilians have discovered social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, as the modern Agora, and that has huge implications and opportunities for brands in Brazil, who activate sponsorships very little in social channels compared to traditional media, especially TV.

9. FIFA sponsors will need to work harder than anybody, but especially in social as their fanpages are suffering daily attacks by consumers.

10. Olympic sponsors have a big advantage. They can watch and learn from FIFA sponsors’ efforts next year, and adapt accordingly for Rio 2016. But how long will it be before the protests turn their attention from World Cup budgets and FIFA to Rio 2016′s budgets and the IOC?


Bruno and Guilherme are partners at Ativa Esporte, the Brazilian sports marketing consultancy which is Synergy’s partner in Brazil.